Chief Sec: No new projects until fresh THA elections

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis - THA
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis - THA

Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis has assured that the current holdover executive council will “govern with restraint” amid the 6-6 deadlock within the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

Dennis was speaking during the THA virtual weekly series Tobago Matters, which aims at providing accountability and transparency to the public.

The series, which was aired for the first time on Saturday, enables the THA to engage with the public and share the organisation’s plans and initiatives, while also receiving feedback.

The panel consisted of Dennis, Chief Administrator Bernadette Solomon-Koroma and Chief Management Accountant in the Office of the Chief Secretary Petal-Ann Roberts, with Glendora Lashley as moderator.

Dennis noted that these are “indeed unprecedented times,” as for the first time in its 40-year history the THA election on January 25 ended in a tie and is now being managed by a holdover executive council.

“The law prescribes that the previous executive council must continue to ensure that the island is not without an administration, and especially due to this pandemic period, it requires that governance on this island continues.”

Dennis said his administration is cognisant of the circumstance and would be conservative with how it exercises its power.

“I committed to Tobago and the people of this country by extension, that we would govern with restraint which simply means that we would only do what is necessary to continue with the proper administration and governance of the island at this point in time.

"We would do the needful – there would be no new projects, no major projects or anything of the sorts. I have instructed my secretaries that no proposals are to come at this point in time for any new initiatives. We would simply continue to do those things that are necessary for the administration of the island at this time and if emergencies arise, of course, we would have to treat with those in the public interest.”

He said Tobagonians must be aware that there are ongoing projects or initiatives which predate the elections.

"Those initiatives and programmes and those ongoing projects will continue.”

Dennis also responded to a recent post on Facebook which claimed the executive council voted secretly to pay a businessman $48 million for ten acres in Bacolet on which to build Scarborough Secondary School and also awarded him a contract for a further $250 million to build the school.

He said: “It’s a total lie – it is false. There have been no attempts by the executive council to construct any school – not the Scarborough Secondary School or any other school in Tobago.”

He further clarified what he termed as the “facts” in the Scarborough Secondary School matter.

“The facts are that this process towards a new or relocated Scarborough Secondary School had begun for some time now – since 2019. The executive council took a decision before the last THA elections to find suitable lands to construct the school and, of course, the approval to purchase the land was given by the executive council since last year...and therefore that process continues.”

He added that no final decision has been made to award any contracts to build the school.

“That simply cannot be done during this period. We would simply have to wait for another THA elections and when there is a clear mandate as to who should govern the island at that point in time, I expect that the assembly would move towards constructing a new Scarborough Secondary School in short order afterwards.”

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